Diana Kelter
Diana is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel. She investigates how cultural, lifestyle and technology shifts take shape across sectors and leverages Mintel data across trend observations.

Mintel has been at the forefront of predicting the trends that matter most, calling them early and accurately, over the last 15 years. In our series You Heard It Here First we take a look at some of the predictions that we’ve made and where they are today.

In 2011, ‘Mintel trend “Life: An Informal Affair,'” signaled society was loosening its grip on suit and tie lifestyles and white cloth dining experiences. At this time a few new sectors were emerging that led Mintel to believe this disruption wouldn’t just be a fad. In 2011, 31% of US consumers agreed they wear the same fitness clothes casually as well as when exercising, according to a Mintel research on fitness clothing. In 2018, 55% of US consumers are wearing the same clothes both casually and for exercise. Once comfort started to become a connotation that was acceptable, with the removal of certain pressures, the timing was ripe for industries to capitalize on that momentum and make it the new norm.

Following the 2008 recession, traditional settings associated with a sense of being proper, such as weddings and offices, started to see a more acceptable shift toward doing what was personal and comfortable versus what was expected. That momentum has only continued to become the norm. In 2019, Shake Shack has announced food trucks specifically designed for weddings and other formal events and Goldman Sachs has announced a more casual dress code. In order for burgers to be served at weddings and hoodies to be worn in the office, a lot of industry disruptors first had to set the tone.

Fast Casuals and Breweries Redefine Premium

Dining out has always represented varying levels of formality and prior to the emergence of the fast casual sector those lines were clearly defined. Early entrants to the fast casual scene, such as Panera and Chipotle, taught consumers that premium food could be served in a laid back environment. That mentality created a norm that went beyond food and premium and casual were no longer mutually exclusive. Brewery culture was also leaving its mark at this time and the concept of craft beer became associated with the industrial, laidback brewery atmosphere. The explosion of all of these things at once coincided with the experiential momentum that has now come to define the Millennial generation.

Experiences over things

Another post-recession habit specifically among Millennials was a transition away from valuing ownership of material things and replacing it with experiences. Experience culture, as defined by social media, has left its own mark on a more casual society. As consumers started documenting events, both large and small, on social media it redefined what made something desirable. In fact, a quarter of Millennials agree that restaurant experiences shared on social media make them feel closer to friends and family, according to Mintel research on social media and foodservice. Brewery culture not only redefined formal culture just by its existence, it also coincided with experience culture. Several breweries partner with high-end restaurants to host family style dinners on-premise and on the other spectrum yoga-based events, all boasting a desired experience.

Casual to the point of isolation

The other side of a more casual society is the lack of a need to  leave home. With Netflix consistently offering more premium content and foodservice delivery bringing high-end food straight to your door, there are fewer reasons for consumers to leave their home in order to enjoy a quality experience. As seen in Mintel’s Social Isolation Trend, so much “connection” has also led to a loneliness epidemic among the youngest set of consumers. The next era of casualization will bring a focus to self-care. Whether it’s nap pods, dogs in offices or a renewed focus on taking mental health days, casualization will start to become tied to overall consumer wellbeing and every industry will have a role to play.